Many New York City restaurants are like stainless steel pans. When feverish critics come in and turn on the gas, these restaurants get hot. But once the press gets its share of the pie, the switch gradually turns counterclockwise. The flame disappears in a matter of months. These pans cool so quickly.
However, not all pans are made of stainless steel. Some of New York City’s finest restaurants are like American cast iron skillets. Cast iron may take longer to get peak, but once the skillet gets hot, it burns for the long haul.
The NoMad turned two this spring. After overcoming its family-style menu adversities in the opening months and adjusting to its kitchen staff changes in 2013, The NoMad is only on its way to reach greater heights. Its sister restaurant, Eleven Madison Park thrives on endless reinvention after all.
After my dinner last February, I am truly convinced that The NoMad is now one of the best restaurants in the United States.
It was wintertime. The iconic carrot and asparagus vanished from the menu. However, The NoMad called up a beautiful shaved sunchokes with pork cheeks and sweet Asian pear. Then a smoked foie gras terrine with crab apples and thyme graced the stage.
The balance savory and sweet in the humble bowl of sunchokes along with the smoky sour contrast between a rich terrine and a tart apple in the plate of foie gras often remind me of Bert and Ernie playing on Sesame Street. Once you see both characters interact together, they’re nearly inseparable.
Some of the classics will have its presence on the menu year-round. There’s the buttery tagliatelle with racy acidity and spiciness from meyer lemon and black pepper. The pasta gets an upgrade in the winter time.
For people who do have the cash money, The Nomad shaves white truffles for $32 for four grams (or $64 for eight). It’s a steal. Although my wallet doesn’t have the funds for supplements, it’s still worth dreaming about seeing white truffles from Alba shaved onto my plate of tagliatelle. For me, I will happily settle for the generous doses of king crab already in my luxurious bowl of noodles.
But there are exceptions in my humble spending habits. Special funds are dedicated for special occasions. An opportunity to devour The NoMad chicken requires special funds.
The Roast Chicken for Two has jumped from seventy nine dollars to eighty two dollars. But such prices are insubstantial when you get to take home the smell of foie gras, black truffle and brioche. Don’t wash your outfit. Enjoy the smell for many days to come.
All jokes aside, The NoMad chicken is an expensive expenditure. The chicken from an Amish farm in Pennsylvania receives an injection of foie gras, black truffle, and brioche under its skin and then gets sent to the fridge. Once it‘s chilled, the chicken gets sent to the hot, hot oven. Beauty.
Once the chicken is presented in the dining room, it gets sent right back to the kitchen. The breast is portioned into two plates. The dark meat is separated from the carcass and then cooked with stock and butter to make the fricassée. The rich fricassee alone could be a meal in itself. This iconic chicken for two is so popular that the kitchen has an annex on the ground floor of the dining room for just for the dish.
If another dish were to compete for 2nd to the chicken, it will probably be the Pastry Chef, Mark Welker’s Milk & Honey. When I was little, I used to detest the taste of milk. However, a bowl of milk and honey would have fixed me right up.
The ice cream quenelle striped with honey is remarkably beautiful. The sweetened milk ice cream is topped with a pungent flavor of honey and plated with milk wafers, honey brittle, and shortbread. The crispy texture of the brittle and dehydrated milk is a wonderful addition to the sweet ice cream. I think we might have found a dish that could be as iconic as the apple pie.
During my first visit to Eleven Madison Park, I remember walking out of the restaurant’s revolving doors with uncontrollable joy and happiness. That meal surpassed any other experience that I’ve ever had. Although The NoMad feels much looser than EMP, the rebelliousness doesn’t take away from the immaculate attention to food and hospitality.
The smell of roast chicken that fills the dining room every night is sufficient evidence to prove that The NoMad is on its way to the top. However, don’t be surprised if iconic dishes like the roasted chicken and milk & honey disappear from the menu one day. Remember, they’re in it for the long haul.